Re: diseases and immunity
Sat, 29 Jun 1996 09:52:35 -0700

Mary Beth Williams wrote:

> In Americanist archaeology, the answer is simply *no, they're not
> used.*

> What is the value of *cross cultural comparison*?

It seems then that the problem lies in methodology. I'm certainly not qualified to
argue the pros and cons here. I've certainly never encountered any methodology
which didn't utilize some sort of cross cultural comparisons. That seems sort of
like testing a new drug without a control group.

> >Although, it is important to remember (1) that generalizations are
> >often misleading, and (2) the technology of a given group might
> >contain elements crossing the boundries of Near Eastern designations.

> Well, I don't think there is much concern in Americanist archaeology in
> the latter, unless, of course, you're of the school of thought that
> Egyptians built the Mayan pyramids ;-)

I'm refering to mesolithic/paleolithic/neolithic/bronze/iron etc... These
designations are based on Near Eastern development. However, the identifying
elements used in these designations are not limited to the Near East. However,
another culture may have identifying elements from two or more designations.

> >Also, the designations apply to technology alone.

> This is why Americanists have rejected such designations. Although
> designations like Woodland and Mississippian are confining as well,
> they deal with social, economic and political characteristics.

This I don't understand. Does this mean the Americanists do not study technology?
It seems that this is a vital component to cultural studies.

> >As for 'ranking', this itself is the worst use of anthropology.
> >Comparisons often come in handy, but on what basis do you rank? To
> >rank according to ones own culture is the ultimate vanity.
> See, as an *Other*, I have a difficult time believing that cultural
> comparison can lead to anything _but_ ranking (history is a wonderful
> instructor.) Anthropology, and its associated *power*, is still in the
> hands of Europeans, and as we know, *absolute power corrupts
> absolutely.*

I've utilized cross cultural comparisons throughout my studies. I don't rank.
Frankly, the world is full of those who treat cultures as if they were completely
isolated intities, they are not. The result is things like Celtic matriarchies,
and pyramid construction under alien influence, and other such things. I'm sorry,
I don't mean to be sarcastic.

Are you honestly telling me that Americanists believe that corn was developed
independently across America? Of course it wasn't. But admitting this throws us
into a cross cultural situation. How else could we possible understand the
development of agriculture in the Americas? The same thing applies to technology.
The thing is, we have to have identify common elements in order to pass across
cultural barriers. This is the sole purpose behind the designations mentioned
earlier. Certainly it can be used to rank, but that is not it's purpose.

The greatest threat I've found to American anthropology is not in the scientific
community. It is those who fail to utilize a proper methodology and recreate
Native American cultures in their own image. Anthropological methodologies have
been developed over years through trial and error. Sure they aren't perfect, but
dumping them is not a solution.